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The Woman Who Got Everything She Asked For

I met Ty Espinosa while visiting fruit stands in the south for a story. I ended up having a long, delightful conversation with her about her life and I left feeling lighter and more inspired than I have in some time. These are the stories I want to cling to.

Tetsu “Ty” Espinosa was born and raised on the Izu Peninsula in Japan and is the youngest of three daughters. She’s almost 83 years old so that would put her birthdate sometime in 1934 or 1935.

She said back then it was common practice for Japanese parents to select marriage partners for their children but they weren’t forced to marry. Both of Ty’s older sisters married the men their parents chose for them but, according to Ty, they were not happy marriages.

Ty was 22 when her parents found a man for her to marry. “I didn’t like him!” she told me, shaking her head with a sour face. Ty said she refused and ran away and went to stay with a friend who was married to an American soldier.

One day her friend confided that her husband’s boss was “a strange man.” He never went out with the guys, wasn’t much of a drinker, and he hated Japanese people because he was from Guam and his family had endured hardship and loss during the Japanese occupation. “I want to introduce you to this man,” her friend said. “Because you’re very pretty and I want to see what will happen.”

His name was Joaquin “Kin” Espinosa. He was a “big man” with a “smart face” and Ty liked him from the start. I asked if she had sensed any hatred or animosity in him and she said no. In fact, he asked her out and took her on dates where she would taste Coca-Cola and hamburgers for the first time. In time, they fell in love.

Like most Chamorros, Kin was raised in the Catholic faith so when he decided he wanted to marry Ty, Kin sought guidance from the base priest. The priest told Kin to reconsider marrying a Japanese woman because he didn’t think Kin, an American, would find happiness in being married to someone from “a losing country.” Ty said those words hurt her deeply and that even though she was a Buddhist, she offered a prayer to Kin’s Christian god.

“I told God that I was the only woman who could take care of Kin. I told him Japanese women are strong and that we are the best housewives. I told God that I didn’t want any material things from him because I am a hard worker. I just asked for patience, wisdom, and health. I asked for a healthy life so that I could take care of my husband.”

They were married at the American Embassy. The couple moved to Guam and settled in Kin’s home village of Malesso’.

Like Kin and his family, many others in Malesso’ had endured grave suffering and loss during WWII. Two of Kin’s siblings were killed during the war – one of them in the Faha Cave massacre. Ty said it was a lonely time because she was clearly an outsider.

Ty tried to learn as much as she could about Chamorro culture so that she could understand her husband’s people. When her husband was away on military duty, she decided to attend a rosary in the village to represent Kin and pay her respects. There were two or three hundred people there, she recalls. “When I walked in, everyone’s eyes were on me and everyone was silent. No one smiled. Everyone looked so angry. I just kept my head down and didn’t look at anyone. After the rosary I didn’t even want to touch the food. I just went straight home and I told myself that I would never go to another rosary.”

When another rosary came around Ty said she fought against her will and went to pay her respects. The reception was as cold as the first. Ty vowed again to never put herself through that humiliation. But when another rosary came around, she realized that she had to be patient. “I changed my mind and my heart because these are the people I am going to live with until I die. If I stayed away or ran away, how will I ever know them? And how will they ever know me? So I went to the rosary.”

At the rosary, someone tapped Ty on the shoulder. She turned and found herself face to face with a woman from the village. “How are you, Ty?” the woman asked. Stunned that someone was actually speaking to her, the first thing Ty said was, “Are you okay?”

From that day on, Ty and the people of Malesso’ began to get to know and accept one another. “Ever since that day, I have had a happy life in this place,” she said.

“You got everything you asked for,” I said to her. “Patience, wisdom, and health.”

She smiled at me. “I did get everything. I’ve received so many blessings in my life.”

Ty has been running the Espinosa Fruit Stand for 45 years and sells whatever she harvests from her trees and plants such as bananas, papaya, mango, pepper, star apple, calamansi, and coconut. She also makes and sells pickled papaya, tuba, and coconut candy.

Joaquin “Kin” Espinosa, a retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class and retired R.O.T.C. instructor, died in 2014. Kin and Ty were married 60 years.

I could go on about this woman because she shared so much but I’ll save it for another story. I would also like to visit her again and collect more. Ty probably won’t remember my face or name – not because she’s almost 83 years old but because I’m just one in the sea of faces that come through her stand every week. But I won’t ever forget this remarkable woman.

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12 Responses

  1. Eddie Chien says:

    Lovely story

  2. Josh says:

    Dang man, that moved me – almost to tears. I’m glad you stopped by and more so, for getting to share her story.

  3. Frank Nededog Salas says:

    Now this is a true human interest story and beautifully told. You have a gift and should continue this as you travel around our island because I know there are several others. Sarge Espinosa was a well known man and he and his wife and their fruit stand is testimony that there is hope still for Guam’s future…Thank you for this warm piece of professional journalism ..

  4. Linda Santos says:

    A beautiful story! I am from Malesso and my mom would stop by her stand so we could get pickled stuff but I never knew her story. Thank you for sharing!!

  5. Rose says:

    Thank you for sharing. I grew up in Malesso and this little stand was like a mom and pop store for me. Everyone driving down to the village knew where to go because it was basically a marker if you want to give directions to. TY was and always a humble and kind person. Gosh, she had the best pickled mango (spicy) and eggs as well. If anything this stand along with the Naputi Store was one that no one will forget!

  6. Lorina Meno-Suarez says:

    I am from malesso too and when I go home to visit, I place my orders..very proud of her accomplishments and not giving up..

  7. Lorina Meno-Suarez says:

    Yay Ty…would always stop at her stand when I go home to merizo for a visit..i live in California now but would always love n miss my homeland..

  8. Florence Pangelinan says:

    Such a beautiful story. I hope you continue to interview the elderly and share their stories before they pass from this world.

  9. Loraine Nangauta-Chargualaf says:

    A very beautiful and touching story, Thank you for sharing!
    Ty’s Fruit Stand is definitely a Southern Charm landmark that has stood the test of time♡!

  10. Ken Espinosa says:

    Very moving story well written and laid out. I know because Auntie Ty has a certain way of speaking to you. It was just a matter of time before someone would write her story she’s always willing to share her experiences. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Gwen E San Nicolas says:

    Thank you for sharing Auntie Ty’s story. It is beautifully written. I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather, Domingo Espinosa, as I read how she described Uncle Kin; a big man with a smart face. It tugged at my heart wishing I could see my grandpa and spend more time with him.

  12. Kin was truly a gentleman who mentored me in so many ways. I frequented Ty’s stand several times a year in the 1980s and it is great to know the story of such a humble woman.

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